This is a guest column from a member of our community, Kayla D. Shands. She has reached out to several other local news outlets, including the Palmetto News-Opinion. The others have yet to publish this story or anything directly related to it.
My name is Kayla Shands and I opened a Cosmetology School on the west side of town, September of 2017.
We were located in the old Regency Beauty Institute building. Once we took occupancy we had several locals donate to get us off the ground and many local businesses supported our fundraisers to help us launch this new school. After several weeks of occupying the building we noticed a foul odor coming from the drain areas in different locations throughout the building. We contacted mall maintenance and they came to “look.” They blamed a bad p-trap for the odor.
After bouts of sickness with myself, co-workers, my children, and students, we had two local plumbers come in and find several building code issues. One issue was bad vent stacks that were not properly connected through the roof and were in place next to the HVAC intake; another issue was the sewer gas leaks coming from all the plumbing drain sources throughout the building. Being that we were a cosmetology school we had 7 shampoo bowls, 5 pedicure chairs with floor drains, a dispensary sink, a coffee bar sink, and men and women’s restrooms with floor drains. The plumber used an EPI gas reader machine and detected the sewer gas leaking at all sink drain locations.
We then did research on the title to real estate and found the plat online which included the note: “proposal to reline sewer between Westgate Mall and Spartan Mill” in 1974. This proposal came after President Nixon introduced the EPA and required public municipals to offer public sewer access to infrastructure this large. Once we began moving our things out of the building, we read the files that were left in our office by a Westgate Mall leasing agent, that belonged to Regency and discovered over 30 students that enrolled had withdrawn due to sickness. We had an attorney to terminate our lease with Westgate Mall so they would not pursue a civil suit for the remainder of the lease term we originally agreed to. Luckily even though they did threaten to take it to civil court they did not do so after being served a letter in reference to the building being unsuitable for its intended use.
I did an hour interview with GoUpstate back in March about the closing/relocating story we needed published, as they did our opening story and put us on the front page of their business section. I have contacted them on why they aren’t printing the story and they claim to be understaffed and not have the time to look into it, although we provided them with affidavits from attorneys and doctors and deeds listed on public record that confirm the issue to be an improperly functioning sewage system put in back in the very early 70’s. These work very similar to a septic system designed for a home with a larger family that would require more frequent pumping. This large infrastructure would have needed to be updated to serve the addition built on and the population growth for our area causing larger numbers of shoppers. We also filed a freedom of information document with the permits office to research just how many work permits are allowed to be pulled on one address without the County admitting it was a problem from underneath that was never going to be fixed properly by remodeling a restroom.
We have also been in contact with News 7 in recent weeks and reported our story to them and have not heard a response as to when they are planning to feature the story. We plan to re-open our campus on the west side over the next couple months nearing Anderson mill rd., please visit our website for postings as we get closer to August. While we wait on our attorney to collect the affidavits from the students we located that were enrolled in the Regency school and the Mall employees that have now come forward to confess symptoms matching those of the exposure to the sewer gas, we want to inform the public that we have tried desperately to get the word out about the issue in hopes of keeping others from experiencing the same health problems.